NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Ranks Of Uninsured Crept Upward Last Year

September 30, 2002

The weak economy and higher health insurance premiums caused an additional 1.4 million people to lose their coverage last year, according to Census Bureau figures. The increase adds political and economic pressure to federal and state governments at a time when potential solutions are limited by tight budgets.

States will be hit with higher costs as more residents seek help through already-strapped Medicare programs. The federal government will be pushed to offer tax credits or expand existing government health programs, observers say.

  • The total number of uninsured in 2001 hit 41.2 million -- or 14.6 percent of the population.
  • A record 44.3 million were uninsured in 1998 -- although that figure dropped to between 39 million and 40 million in 1999 and 2000.
  • The number of people covered by insurance through their employers dropped by 1 percent -- although that was partially offset by a rise of 0.6 percent among those covered by government health programs.
  • Among households earning less than $25,000 annually, 23 percent lacked health insurance.

Hispanics are more likely than blacks, whites or Asians to go without health insurance.

Families with incomes above $75,000 made up nearly 58 percent of the increase in the uninsured -- even though they make up only 30 percent of the population. Experts explain that income group is most likely to have coverage and therefore, in times of job cutbacks or recession, the group most likely to lose it.

Source: Julie Appleby, "1.4 Million Lost Their Medical Coverage in '01," USA Today, September 30, 2002.

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